At a talk she gave last week, Gloria Steinem referred to Barry Goldwater as a moderate Republican. I almost fell out of my chair.
But consider this. Goldwater:
- Accused Pat Robertson of trying to turn the Republican Party into a religious organization (“If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye”).
- Supported gays in the military ("You don't have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight").
- Endorsed medical marijuana, defended Roe v. Wade, and believed in the separation of church and state.
- Delivered the word to Richard Nixon that he must resign.
- And lamented that a “bunch of kooks” had taken over the GOP, telling Bob Dole in 1996, "We're the new liberals of the Republican Party. Can you imagine that?"
Before we get too carried away, Goldwater also opposed the Civil Right Act (as, by the way, did Al Gore Sr.), was one of eight senators to vote against the Equal Rights Amendment,declined to censure Joe McCarthy, discussed nuclear defoliation of Vietcong supply routes, and suggested the United Nations move to Moscow or Beijing.
Still, while we think of America as a more conservative society in the 1950s and 1960s than it is today, in some ways its politics were not. When he ran for president in 1964, Goldwater’s views on religion, gay rights and abortion were simply not issues, and the Republican party paid little attention to the cultural conservatives in its ranks. Now they have taken over the party, and they are gunning not just for Barack Obama but for Mitt Romney . . . who is standing there in his new blue jeans desperately hoping to get picked by their team.
Stay tuned. I’m trying to figure this out myself.